Saturday, October 5, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #155 – October 4, 2013

Dear Friends,

The State Board meeting last Wednesday (0ct. 2) can be called “The Battle for Control of the Agenda.” Superintendent Ritz prevailed and kept the agenda on track, but it wasn’t easy. Board member efforts to change the agenda and to have their new staff members bring comments on nearly every point created a whole new contentious dynamic in the meeting.

I have attended nearly all of the State Board meetings since 1997-98, and I have never seen anything like the meeting I witnessed on Wednesday. With loquacious board members and now state board staff speaking freely and frequently on nearly every issue, the 9am meeting went on to 4:10pm with only one brief 25 minute lunch break.

State Board of Education (SBOE) Staff

I went to the meeting wondering if any differences would be noticed due to the Governor’s new bureaucracy giving State Board members their own staff. I didn’t have to wonder long.

We are in a new era of highly visible power wrangling in the education arena. The Governor’s new staff members have their own table in the meeting room, close to the podium for speakers. There were four there on Wednesday, and they all spoke at some point. The Governor’s legal advisor Michelle McGowen felt empowered to stand up to speak on her own initiative at least four times, sometimes inserting her opinion on an issue before Superintendent Ritz’s legal advisor had an opportunity to speak. During a discussion of the A-F grading system, the Governor’s advisor rose to give her opinion, and presumably the Governor’s opinion, that the current flawed A-F system created by Dr.Bennett should be used for three more times, for data from 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15. As you know from my previous “Notes”, I don’t think it deserves to be used even one more time.

Apparently neither the Governor nor Michelle McGowen have heard from all those across Indiana who were hurt by the new flawed system and its norm-referenced bonuses. Maybe they will start hearing soon from school leaders who are eager for a new system now and were hopeful for a quick exit from the current plan after legislators passed a law saying a new system should be in place by November 15, 2013, just six weeks from now.

In this new era, public school advocates need to put the Governor and his State Board staff on the list of people to contact regarding the flaws of the current A-F system.

Opening Arguments

Scott Elliott in the Oct. 4th Indianapolis Star described the contentious debate over the agenda that started the meeting. His description was good as far as it went, but he left out the response of Superintendent Ritz to Mr. Elsener and Mr. Walker, who had both wanted agenda changes. She reminded them that under the “Shared Governance Agreement” negotiated with the Governor’s office at the start of her term, agenda items are to be submitted ten days in advance of the meeting and last minute changes to the agenda are left to the discretion of the chair. All board members were aware of these rules and had voted to implement them several months ago, although Mr. Walker took the opportunity to lament that they had done so.

Obviously, setting the agenda is an indicator of power, and several individual state board members would like more power and would like to assign less power to State Superintendent Ritz.

Hear Glenda Ritz on October 5th

Glenda Ritz will be the featured speaker at the Indiana Coalition for Public Education fall membership meeting in Lafayette tomorrow, Saturday, October 5th at 2:00pm. You can come to hear her comments on this issue and other key issues: voucher implementation, a new A-F system, the settlement with CTB McGraw Hill on ISTEP+ testing and many others. Please join us in this meeting for all ICPE members and prospective members at the Tippecanoe County Library, 627 South Street, Lafayette, from 2:00 to 3:30pm.

Although no RSVP is necessary, if you can come on Saturday to show support for Glenda Ritz and ICPE, replying to this message would help us with the count.

Please join us on Saturday to help support public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. We hope all members and prospective members will come to the membership meetings this fall, the second of which is Saturday, October 5th, 2-3:30pm at the Tippecanoe County Library, 627 South Street in Lafayette. Glenda Ritz is the featured speaker. At the meeting you can renew your membership for the 2013-14 membership year which began July 1st if you have not done so already.

To all who have recently renewed or supported our fundraiser in Bloomington, we say thank you! We need additional support to carry on our advocacy for public education. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on our three ICPE membership meetings this fall. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998

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